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                                             Some thoughts...

Monday, May 22, 2006


The current Reservation Bill, aimed at increasing the quota for OBC’s in educational institutions in India, which was passed unanimously by the Lok Sabha, has caused much furor in the last few days. So, what is all the fuss about?

The boom in India’s economy has been driven by young, well-educated professionals. The benefits that this growth has brought, will surely cycle through to all sections of the society, but we can safely state that India’s development has been lopsided.

I guess it is prudent to first review the status of higher education in India. Currently, what cross-section of the society has access to the best institutions in the country? The competition that students face, to get into the best institutes of higher learning, is intense to say the least. I don’t think it is uncommon to see students “drop” one year, after completing school, in preparation for the competitive exams. And this is where the economic disparities widen. Those from not so well off families do not find it possible to afford the high priced tutorials that are considered a must if one aspires to get into a good institution. So there is, no doubt, a disparity, which must be bridged somehow.

But does this disparity arise from caste background? Now that, is the million dollar question. If you belong to a backward class, does it automatically make you economically weak? This is the key assumption in Arjun Singh’s proposition. And it is the biggest flaw in the idea.

Seeing the tremendous political support that the bill has achieved (well, which party will be stupid enough to oppose such a “vote-bank favoring” proposition?), it would be naïve to assume that it will be rolled back completely, as demanded by the agitating students. What may be acceptable, the best possible compromise, is a modification to the bill. Here is what I propose:

Using caste as a proxy for economic standing is unacceptable. There are a number of very well to do people hailing from the so-called backward classes, and their benefiting from this bill would go very much against its purpose. In addition, it is widely known how easy it is to get fake certificates. Tax returns filed by the individual’s parents/guardians can be used as the more appropriate measure. We have already established PAN numbers for all people filing taxes, and therefore, cross checking the claims should not be difficult. Anyone from a family with an income below a certain level should be eligible for the reserved seats.

Any kind of reservation meddles with the “free market” forces. By doing this we are artificially giving some people an edge, while condemning others. In this case, it may be required to do so, as the free market has not lead to an acceptable stable state. However, any such interference should be temporary. We should not keep rewarding people for being poor indefinitely. This scheme should be accessible by a particular family for only one generation – if the parent(s) have received admission into colleges on account of their being economically backward, the children should not be eligible, irrespective of their current economic standard. This ensures that the backward are brought up to a level, but only once. They cannot continue failing and keep falling back on reservations for support. In the same vein, the current reservations for SC/ST should be gradually reduced to zero. They have been enjoying this advantage for decades now – if their status is yet to improve, it just means that they have been using it as a crutch rather than an opportunity.


  • ppl passing the bill won't think so clear or/and above all they don't even want to.. its basically an issue of vote politics so..the question of absolving any earlier reservation is out. while foraging into the economic basis of reservations would reduce the divide in society and hence would be threatening the vote bank (Though it at present seems an appropriate solution..but hey, the Question is still WHO BELLS THE CAT?)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:57 PM  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:59 PM  

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